– K.Bhavana Rao, Divya Nazareth, Jyothirmayee Kandula
This the second blogpost of the series on Water Budgeting in Telangana carried out in 7 Gram Panchayats (GP) of Rangareddy and Nagaurkurnool districts and their neighbouring hamlets. The water budgets of these villages revealed some startling facts. This region has received low rainfall since the past three years, inspite of that, farmers took water intensive crops and livestock production during irrigation. However, the very high water deficit figures that emerged from the calculation shocked all participants (Table 1).
It was disheartening to note that the IWMP watershed programs implemented in the villages seemed to have limited impact. Could this be attributed to the project design that did not implement all the required watershed treatments? Or, is this due to the reduced rainfall of the past three years?! Could this be due to the reduced recharge ability of the geo-hydrology of this region? Could this be due to the excessive water used for agriculture? These observation triggered the villagers to reflect on the developmental interventions in their villages. The following were their reflections:
Sarpanch of Chandrana (Shri Ramulu): “We all should try and stop the borewell motors once the fields are irrigated. We often neglect this and leave the motors running.” He was referring to the 24 hours electricity subsidy being offered by the Telangana state government.
Chairman of the Watershed Committee of Jangareddipally village (Shri Venkat Reddy): “We didn’t have an idea of how much water the different crops realistically consume, though we had some general idea. We now need to diversify the crop varieties taken each season thereby utilizing water more efficiently and still get some produce.”
Shri Chandra Reddy also from Jangareddipally added , “Paddy crop takes large amounts of water, and we need to find ways and means to limit this; But, we have a good market for paddy and that’s the reason we cultivate it in larger areas. The same applies to the cotton crop. This is an important factor as our income depends on these crops”. “How can we grow crops, which have no market value?
Some farmers felt anxious when one of their members raised a question, “If we are already receiving reduced rainfall every year, how do you expect us to save water?”
Addressing this issue, Ravi Prasad from WOTR Telangana team shared, “Despite all these problems, water can be saved and a good income can still be incurred. For example, if vegetable cultivation is taken with drip irrigation; not only does it save water , but it will bring more land under irrigation”. Moreover, “When the sale of farm produce is done collectively by becoming members of the Farmer Producer Organization (FPO) in your village, or at least plan and sell farm produce in a group, the advantages are many. Other methods for saving water are by cultivating crops under the SRI & SCI methods, and there are many other ways.” Farmers who have benefitted from other WOTR projects endorsed this and encouraged the new villagers to at least try out what they are currently doing.
Ravi then drew attention to the area under drip irrigation in the villages indicating that by the use of these systems, farmers have significantly lowered the amounts of water being wasted through flood irrigation.
It was interesting to note that, when such locale specific findings are shared to the village communities, their reactions were both promising, as well as interesting. Discussions around this brought out an interesting insight that large tracks of good agriculture land having functional borewells are owned by large and medium landowning farmers, who do not have access to government schemes, because of which the figures of water saved are relatively low (Table 2).
In most of the water budgetting meetings. farmers were looking for solutions and handholding support. Also. t was interesting to note that the figures displayed on the charts captured the interest of the farmers. They were intrigued and enquired how these figures are obtained. From these observations, one can conclude that a simple water budgeting meeting with “numbers” made all the difference in getting communities .In most of the water budgetting meetings. farmers were looking for solutions and handholding support. Also. t was interesting to note that the figures displayed on the charts captured the interest of the farmers. They were intrigued and enquired how these figures are obtained. From these observations, one can conclude that a simple water budgeting meeting with “numbers” made all the difference in getting communities to think and reflect on their situation and provoked seeking responses. The information of the amount of “water deficit” currently experienced in their villages evoked some thinking about the need to conserve water and having a village level water governance system. Shri. Laxmanachary, a retired school teacher requested “Kindly organise such gramsabhas frequently; such information needs to be passed on to each and every community member in our village”.
- Building response capacities of communities to climate change requires “extensive handholding.” While numerous community engagement tools exist and do make significant impacts – the Water Budget exercise, using local and factual data sparked interest and reflection. Such activities need to be facilitated for extended periods and even beyond the limit of short project time cycles. As Water Budgets are affected by changes in weather patterns as well as market pulls and their own income aspirations, people need to be guided through the challenge emerging from these changes.
- Although state micro-irrigation schemes have high subsidies, its uptake is limited. A closer look at the reality reveals that the schemes focus at poverty alleviation with a development angle, hence mainly for small and marginal farmers with a preference for the lower caste groups. However, it is found that a large percentage of land under flood irrigation is owned by the large and medium landholding farmers who belong to upper caste communities and who have limited access to this scheme. They own a large number of functional borewells, as compared to the small and marginal farmers who barely own functional borewells. If this scheme takes up a climate adaptation and ecosystems objective, much more water will be saved
- It is vital for watershed development activities to have appropriate area and drainage line treatments constructed (doing a participatory net plan helps), as this approach harvests the maximum amount of rainfall insitu. Secondly, regular maintenance of the watershed structures is required to enhance the supply side. If proper area treatment is not done, there is loss of prewater and top soil through runoff while rendering the investments ineffective
- Presentation of realiztic data and quantative information of the particular locale triggers interest of the rural communities and drives a discussion, In fact it is a powerful way of motivating and mobilizing communities for action.